Peacemaker festival announced, third new event for downtown Fort Smith

by The City Wire staff ([email protected]) 359 views 

Add the Peacemaker Music and Arts Festival to a growing list of events to debut in downtown Fort Smith in 2015. And Peacemaker is bringing to town impressive acts like Jason Isbell, and the Chris Robinson Brotherhood.

The festival is set for July 31 to Aug. 2 at the River Park Amphitheater in downtown Fort Smith. Jason Isbell will headline the Friday night show, with the Chris Robinson Brotherhood headlining on Saturday. Other acts for the festival include Lucero, Red Wanting Blue, Anders Osborne, Brownout, Corey Smith, and The Cate Brothers. Event organizers say other acts may join the lineup.

Isbell is reportedly back in the studio working on a new album, but his most recent album is the highly acclaimed and frequently awarded “Southeastern.” It’s his back-in-the saddle work. Isbell found success early during his years with Drive-By Truckers (DBT). But his drinking, failed relationships and kiss-my-ass attitude resulted in his dismissal from DBT. In spite of his troubles, he delivered three decent solo albums prior to his inspired “Southeastern” work.

At the 2014 Americana Honors and Awards show, Isbell was named Artist of the Year, received the Song of the Year award (for “Cover Me Up”) and “Southeastern” was named Album of the Year.

The Chris Robinson Brotherhood is fronted by, obviously, Chris Robinsion, the lead singer of what was once the Black Crowes. The band is touring following release of “Phosphorescent Harvest,” their third album.

Tickets go on sale Wednesday (April 8) via the Peacemaker website. Early bird tickets are $15, general admission $20 and a three-day pass is $25. The Peacemaker Music and Arts Festival is a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization with a portion of the proceeds supporting area charities. The organizations chosen this first year are Developmental Wings, Girls Inc. and the Children’s Emergency Shelter.

Fort Smith businessman and Festival President Jeff Gosey said the festival grew out of a simple question he posted on Facebook. He wanted to know if anyone was interested in helping launch a music festival. They were.

“This has been an amazing ride so far,” Gosey said in a statement. “I’m blown away by the dedication and hard work of this organization and we’re excited to announce a killer line up for this inaugural event.”

Gosey and other event organizers say the purpose of the festival is to “expand people’s cultural knowledge” by bringing to town different music genres.

“Art exhibitions will also be set up around the festival grounds to visually enrich and educate the public,” noted the Peacemaker press release.

Part of the cultural focus will be the “praise God and pass the biscuits!” event held 10 a.m. on Sunday (Aug. 2). The event will allow “area churches and community leaders will feed the hungry and the hung over for free at the River Front Pavilion. This gospel style brunch will also include live gospel choirs and bluegrass musicians.”

“We are committed solely to the production of this festival for charitable and educational purposes,” Festival Vice President Bill Neumeier said in the statement. “Not only do we want to provide Fort Smith with a fun event, but we want to be able to give back to other organizations that provide much needed help to our residents.”

Four charities, a “Thunder Through The Valley” parade in downtown Fort Smith and potentially 5,000 motorcyclists are expected to be part of the inaugural Steel Horse Rally set for May 1-2.


Dennis Snow, president of Steel Horse Rally Inc., estimates 5,000 motorcyclists will be in the area for the event which is geared toward honoring members of the military, veterans, police and firefighters and first responders. The Steel Horse Rally “Thunder Through the Valley Motorcycle Parade” is set for May 2. The parade line-up will begin staging at 4 p.m. on Saturday (May 2) at Fort Smith Park, and kickstands go up at 5 p.m. as the parade heads to downtown Fort Smith. The parade is free and open to anyone riding a motorcycle or trike.

The event also will include live music at Harry E. Kelley Park in downtown Fort Smith on Friday and Saturday nights. Bands set to perform include Scot Ellison, Backroad Anthem, and Hillbilly Vegas.


A unique “Festival of Murals” is set for Sept. 6-13, with several events to coincide with large murals painted or applied to between five and 10 downtown buildings. The first year of the event is being pitched as “The Unexpected Project” by Steve Clark, owner of Propak Logistics, and a CBID member and active supporter of the murals effort. The project is part of 64.6 Downtown, a new organization formed to promote downtown Fort Smith.

The event is expected to include a music festival and a “Criterium” bicycle race that could attract hundreds of competitors.

John McIntosh, is leading the murals project. His team for the effort is Claire Kolberg, festival coordinator; Don Lee, head of the art department at the University of Arkansas at Fort Smith; Galen Hunter with Fort Smith-based MAHG Architects; and Jim Perry, a corporate marketing executive with Fort Smith-based ArcBest.

The Fort Smith Marathon held its inaugural event on Feb. 8 in downtown Fort Smith. Proceeds from that event are used to support construction and maintenance of the Fort Smith trail system. More than 1,000 runners participated in the various runs and relays that were part of the event.

Claude Legris, executive director of the Fort Smith Convention and Visitors Bureau, praised the vision of those behind the new events.

“There are some people stepping up finally, and we’re thrilled to see that happening. … But you have to give credit to those who have the dream. You have people like John McIntosh and Steve (Clark) who can close their eyes and see the vision. That’s what it takes,” Legris said.

Legris also said the Bureau is “in no way shape or form taking credit” for the new events, but is eager to help market and promote them. The Bureau did provide $2,500 to the Steel Horse Rally to cover marketing expenses.